Customers and developers alike often complain of the overly sprawling collection of apps in the iPhone App Store. With countless applications, many of which offer the same basic features, it's becoming increasingly difficult for truly useful and original apps to stand out, and for customers to purchase them. Apple, in step with a handful of previous App Store policy revisions (see "App Store Reviews Now Distinguish Versions," 2009-03-12), has decided to do a bit of spring cleaning - implementing a new app purging policy.
Effective 01-Apr-09, Apple is selectively removing from the App Store apps that fail to meet a new set of criteria for active in-store status. While an Apple spokesperson said the company would not be making the specifics of its criteria public, he did note it would be generally taking into account an app's number of downloads, customer ratings, and whether Apple feels the app "contributes to or detracts from the App Store's overall mission."
We also expect that the company may limit the number of similar products in a category. While this might reduce the app count from its current 25,000 to as few as 2,500, the long-tail applications represent less than .01 percent of all App Store downloads.
Some developers are concerned that their apps could be unexpectedly removed by this murky set of criteria. Fraser Speirs, author of the Flickr viewing and uploading app Darkslide, is currently waiting for a title to be approved. "I submitted an app four months ago," he said. "I'm afraid it will finally be approved and then yanked on the same day." After some prodding, Speirs revealed the app to be FartLighter, which combines two of the App Store's most popular utilities into one.
However, many developers are happy to see Apple taking steps to improve the app store experience. Craig Hockenberry of Iconfactory, makers of Twitterrific and Frenzic apps, said, "I know none of my apps will be affected, so I think it's a wise and overdue move on Apple's part. It's time we give these underachievers the boot."
Overall, we're pleased to see Apple continuing to enhance the App Store environment, and feel confident the company will make sound decisions regarding the deservedness of aspiring apps.